USCG plans Alaska Arctic coast route study
The U.S. Coast Guard said in a Dec. 21 Federal Register notice that it will do a port access route study of the Alaskan Arctic coast covering the United States exclusive economic zone from the Canadian border to Cape Prince of Wales on the Seward Peninsula.
“The study is expected to take in excess of 48 months to complete due to the size and remoteness of the study area, expected difficulty in accessing and communicating with regional stakeholders at times when discussions will be most productive, the proximity to Canada, difficulty in predicting expected future changes in international shipping and other waterway uses, and the highly technical nature of scientific data available on the Arctic,” USGC said in the Federal Register notice.
Two previous port access route studies have been done for Alaska, a 1981 PARS focused on localized approaches to some Alaska ports and Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Island chain, and a PARS for the Bering Sea and Bering Strait region of Alaska to analyze the need and suitability of a vessel routing system for that region.
“Neither of these studies focused on the United States Arctic coast to analyze vessel traffic proceeding to or from ports and places” in the U.S. exclusive economic zone - the focus of this study.
Reasons for studyDeclining sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean, Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea “are affecting the people, wildlife and habitat of the region,” USGS said, resulting in “increased levels of government attention, media attention, scientific research, natural resource exploration, eco and adventure tourism, and increasing commercial use of the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route as alternative shipping routes.”
“As part of the study, the Coast Guard may analyze commercial vessel traffic, fishing vessel traffic, subsistence hunting and fishing activities, recreational activities, military activities, existing and potential outer continental shelf activities, port activities, environmental factors, economic effects and impacts, as well as other topics that may arise during the study process,” the Federal Register notice says.
There is a lack of historical information about actual vessel traffic patterns in the area, and how those patterns may have changed over time, and at this stage in the study, the USCG said, it is “particularly interested in identifying specific locations, times, or instances where future vessel activity could increase significantly in density or cause specific undesirable consequences.”
Details are available at www.regulations.gov under docket number USCG-2018-1058.